Death of the Demon: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel (5 page)

BOOK: Death of the Demon: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel
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They were all asleep. Raymond was snoring, his mouth open and head upturned, lying on his back with arms and legs spread-eagled, falling halfway off the narrow bed with his quilt reposing on the floor. Picking it up, the night attendant returned the long boyish legs to their rightful place without disturbing the occupant and stuffed the edge of the quilt down between the mattress and the edge of the bed in the forlorn hope that it would not slide off again.

He glanced across at Olav’s bed, and froze. The bed was empty. That did not add up. Although he had been watching television, he would have noticed if the boy had gone out, as the door to the dayroom had been open. Or had it been? He felt hot under the collar.

Youngsters had run off before. It was easy to avoid coming home from school, or from a visit to the city or whatever. But this
was his fault, and it was the middle of the night. And Olav was only twelve years old.

The window was open. The fire rope, fastened to a hook under the windowsill, hung out. Pushing the window wide open, Eirik stared down at the ground five meters below. But the boy had not dared to go near the ropes!

Without any thought about waking the sleeping children, he rushed out into the corridor, past the staff bedroom, shouting when he had reached almost two meters from the director’s office inside the corridor at the right of the stairs, “Agnes! Agnes! Olav’s run away!”

Storming into the office, he came to a halt, totally thunderstruck.

Behind her mahogany writing desk, purchased at a flea market for three hundred kroner, with a potted plant, telephone, cheap plastic writing surface, and red cup containing four pens and a pencil arrayed in front of her, Agnes Vestavik was sitting perfectly still. Her stare penetrated right through him with an expression of surprise and her mouth half open, a little rivulet of coagulated blood running down from one corner of her mouth. Though it was no longer running.

After standing rooted to the spot for half a minute, Eirik shuffled slowly and stiffly around the desk, as if showing respect for the dead. For she was as dead as she could be: thirteen centimeters of a knife shaft protruded from her back, at about the height of her heart.

Clasping his hands in front of his face, Eirik burst into tears.

3

T
hat I solemnly swear.”

She let her right hand fall. There were few things Chief Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen liked less than being a witness in court. It was true that police officers—in contrast with other witnesses—were allowed to a large extent to attend by appointment, with the prosecutor phoning half an hour before they were due to appear in the witness box. Nevertheless, something always happened to cause a delay. Besides, it took time to bring to mind something that had occurred eighteen months, perhaps two years, earlier. Simply locating the case documents consumed enough time. The simplest solution would be to receive a copy of the prosecutor’s documents a couple of days in advance, but Hanne Wilhelmsen knew, in common with the other fifteen hundred police officers at Oslo Police Station, that this was accomplished only in one of ten instances. The police attorneys proffered assurances and promises, but the papers never arrived, and as a rule one ended up rummaging through an archive that was more or less homemade.

Her court appearance concerned a triviality. Sitting with somber expressions, the gown-clad prosecutors were spending their working day investigating whether a twenty-one-year-old girl had bitten a police officer in the leg and spat in his ear during a demonstration.

Slurping on chewing gum, the young woman tugged at her lilac-colored hair and looked daggers at the chief inspector as she
assumed her place in the witness box, dressed in full uniform. Hanne Wilhelmsen did not hear the word, but judging by the lip movements she could swear the accused formed the word “pig” before leaning back with an exaggerated sigh and casting her eyes to the ceiling, with her defense counsel making no move to ask her to behave more decorously.

The questioning this time was swiftly over and done with. Hanne Wilhelmsen had in fact seen what had taken place. In her off-duty hours she had happened to pass the square at Stortorget as a small group of people, pretty accurately known by the name of Blitz Youth, was furiously screaming about the bar they were standing outside being a fascist den. In fact, their description was spot on, as the police had known for a long time that it was the haunt of right-wing extremist groups. At the moment Hanne Wilhelmsen was walking past, the girl with the lilac hair was being hauled out and handcuffed by two officers, without offering much resistance. Chief Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen had stopped and was standing only three or four meters away when the Blitzer asked one of the police officers if she could tell him a secret. Before he had time to answer, she had leaned toward his ear and dispatched a substantial lump of chewing gum and spittle. The enraged police officer had dropped her to the ground, whereupon the girl sank her teeth into his boot, just above the ankle. There must have been considerably greater strain on the accused’s teeth and jaw than the shoe leather, especially since the bad-tempered police officer tried to shake her off. Eventually letting go, she had started to laugh, and at that was yanked onto her feet and packed into a waiting police van.

“Did you see clearly that she bit the policeman in the leg?”

It was the prosecutor posing the question, a small assistant police attorney of tender years, with red roses on his beardless cheeks. Wilhelmsen knew that this was his very first case.

“Well, to the extent that boots form a part of your leg, yes,” responded the chief inspector, gazing at the judge.

He looked as though he might die of boredom at any moment.

“There is no doubt that she bit him?”

The prosecutor was insistent.

“She bit the police officer’s leather boot. The court will have to decide whether that is biting him in the leg.”

“Did you see that she had spat first?”

Hanne Wilhelmsen tried not to smile.

“Yes, she spat a large splodge of chewing gum right in his ear. It looked unpleasant.”

The red-cheeked lawyer was satisfied, and the defense counsel did not have many questions either. Wilhelmsen was allowed to leave.

The girl would probably be behind bars for thirty days. Violence toward a public servant. Not good. As the chief inspector emerged from the new Oslo Courthouse onto the open space of C. J. Hambros plass, she stood still for a second, gently shaking her head.

“We spend our time and money on a lot of bizarre things,” she muttered before flagging down a passing police car and being transported back to Grønlandsleiret 44, Oslo Police Station.

 • • • 

Her new office was twice as spacious as the old one and accompanied her job as chief inspector. Having been named to the post barely six months prior, Hanne was still unsure if she was actually comfortable with it. Administrative duties were no fun and at times deathly tedious. On the other hand, it was challenging to lead others in what she did best: investigation. She personally played a more active part in police work than was usual for chief inspectors, and she knew it was a topic of discussion, not all positive. With increasing clarity she realized that on the whole the position she had enjoyed for many years of being everyone’s
heroine, fortunately spared criticism and conflict, was over. Whereas previously she had constructively but noncommittally suggested rational solutions that others had implemented and taken the rap for, she now had the power and accountability to bear the brunt herself. As an ordinary detective she had withdrawn from every personal antagonism, every hint of intrigue, performing her job and discharging her duties splendidly, and then returned home with admiring glances following in her wake. Now she was right in the thick of it, with no escape route, her responsibilities making it necessary to mediate, make decisions, and control other people. Perhaps this ran counter to her internal instincts. So much of her life had been spent building a bulkhead between herself and others, a barrier she depended upon in order to hide behind. Whenever.

Hanne Wilhelmsen was not at all sure she was comfortable.

“Hanne, my turtledove, my sweetheart!”

A bronzed giant filled the doorway, wearing faded jeans without a belt, with a heavy gold chain attached to one belt loop and ending at the watch pocket on his right hip. His T-shirt was a fiery shade of red and emblazoned with a black instruction to
FUCK OFF!
above his broad chest. On his feet he had black boots with huge genuine spurs at the heels. His head was covered in half-a-centimeter-long blond, bristling hair. The beard was far longer, and to make matters worse, it was copper red.

“Billy T.! You’ve grown your hair!”

Chief Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen stood up and was immediately subjected to an energetic display of affection from her burly visitor, who swept her off her feet and swung her around so vigorously that her coffee cup spilled over and the wastepaper basket was hurtled several meters across the floor. Finally he deposited her on the floor again, giving her a big smacking kiss on the chops, and then flopped down on a chair that appeared to be four sizes too small.

They had known each other since Police College, and in contrast to most of her other male friends, he had never ever come on to her. On the contrary, he had helped her out of embarrassing situations several times by being some kind of knight in shining armor, and she knew that at one time rumors had circulated about them. After he had acquired children here and there, none of them hers, fresh and entirely different rumors had circulated about her and he could not save her from that, but he had never, not for a moment, withdrawn from her. Quite the opposite: one beautiful night nine months earlier, during the legendary hot spring when they had all been on the verge of drowning in a crashing wave of criminality, he had forced her to face up to herself in a way that made her begin to think seriously, deep within herself, about the way she lived her life. But only deep within herself.

“I’ve just had a bloody wonderful time,” he declared, beating her to it. “I’ve had a marvelous time, the boys have had a brilliant time, and to top it all I’ve met a bloody fantastic woman.”

A fortnight in the Canary Islands. She wished it had been her.

“And now you’re well rested and ready for work. With me. For me.”

Her voice smooth as silk, she leaned toward him across the desk.

“To think I’m going to experience that. Being Billy T.’s boss. Every boss’s nightmare. I’m looking forward to it!”

He contentedly stretched out his six-and-a-half-foot-tall body, folding his hands at the back of his neck.

“If I could ever adapt to having a boss, then it would have to be a lovely lady. And if I could ever adapt to a lovely lady, then it would have to be you. This will go well.”

Billy T. had become a detective again. After many years as a cop in denims in Oslo Police Station’s drug intervention unit, he had allowed himself to be persuaded by Hanne Wilhelmsen,
who had even written his transfer application for him. It had cost her many bottles of red wine and a pricey dinner before he had signed up, at two o’clock one Saturday night. At nine o’clock the next morning he had phoned her in desperation, attempting to have the application form ripped to shreds, but she had laughed. It was out of the question. Now he was sitting here, obviously looking forward to it himself too.

“And the first thing you have to tackle is this.”

She handed him three green folders, not too voluminous. A knife attack from the previous Saturday, a suspicious infant death that probably was a case of sudden infant death syndrome, and another death at the other end of the life span that would quite possibly turn out to be alcohol poisoning.

“These are child’s play,” she said.

Then she produced another folder.

“And this is the real work. A murder. Old-fashioned stabbing, right out of a cheap thriller. In a foster home! It happened last night. Talk to the crime scene team. Good luck. I’d prefer to have a load of people on the case, but with this double murder in Smestad last week, this is how it has to be. Four detectives max. Anyway, you’ll be the lead investigator.”

“Fuck, is that already decided?”

“Yes.” She smiled ingratiatingly. “You’ll work with Erik and Tone-Marit in the meantime.”

Billy T. stood up and gathered his belongings with a heavy sigh.

“I should’ve been down there,” he groaned.

“I’m glad you’re not.” Hanne Wilhelmsen’s smile was saccharine sweet as she added, “T-shirts like that won’t do here. Go and change it at once! And at the very least before you set off for the foster home!”

“We’ll see about that,” he muttered, deciding to wear the same shirt all week, before trudging out the door with spurs clinking.

 • • • 

Billy T. had changed his T-shirt all the same. On further reflection he had decided that the message was not suitable for children in a foster home, and now he was wearing a neutral white button-down shirt beneath an enormous well-worn sheepskin coat. He bumped his head on the doorframe as he clambered out of the undersized unmarked police car, making a futile attempt to rub away the pain on his way up the garden path. It was cold after a period of mild weather, and the gravel, dry and frosty, crunched under his pointed boots. Hanne Wilhelmsen had accompanied him. Billy T.’s strides were so long that she was forced to jog beside him.

“I ought to have danger money for driving these cars,” Billy T. commented bitterly. “Am I bleeding?”

Bending over, he turned the crown of his head toward his colleague. The scalp was visible under the stubble of hair, with cuts and scars from a multitude of earlier collisions, but he was not bleeding.

“Wimp,” Hanne Wilhelmsen said, kissing it better and opening a blue entrance door on which a half-moon-shaped window was divided into three at face height. A little flowery curtain prevented them from seeing inside.

They entered a porch, with cloakroom hooks along the wall on one side and a three-shelf wooden shoe rack on the other. A cheerful chaos of shoes in sizes from 32 to 44 was piled both on and around the shelves, but before Hanne Wilhelmsen had made up her mind whether to remove her footwear, Billy T. had already headed through the next door, and she followed after him with her shoes on. To their right, a staircase led to another floor, and the room facing them was a kind of sitting room. The place was deserted and silent.

BOOK: Death of the Demon: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel
8.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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